As you may know, we have arranged for the AGM (which would have been part of the conference and is now a standalone event at Harper dams University) to be part of a wider day of community, with the possibility of staying over on Friday and Saturday night. We are trying to make this as accessible as possible, so that people don't have to do the whole thing on one day (which can be exhausting). This AGM is important to us all (not just the trustees) and we would like as many people as possible to be involved. Often people feel that things happen as a result of the AGM, which, when not attached to a conference, is not always well-attended. This is our attempt to try and change this.
Whether this is your first AGM or your 30th, or whether you have been a member one day (hello newest member!) or since the beginning, you are welcome to come. You do not need to be a member to attend. The person-centered approach is wider than BAPCA, and new and old voices are always welcome.
It will be hosted at Coventry again (if you would like us to host one in an area near to you and can suggest a suitable location, please email LJ with your suggestions. They will be glad to look into other locations across the UK).
The first encounter group was held in February, with a mixure of counsellors, trainees, and people who are person-centered or interested in the approach but who are not working in counselling. We had a mixture of BAPCA members and non-members there, and the day was a delight. Several of us found it very moving to be part of.
'Applying for a placement' - a guide (from a placement provider) in 15ish easy steps.
I (LJ) wrote this for the person-centered trainees group on facebook (with some helpful suggestions from members there), but it occurred to me that it might be useful for people outside of facebook so I'm reposting it here.
- Congratulations on getting on your course! So you need a placement? Find out (if possible) when you will be needing to start a placement. On an 18 month diploma/2year foundation degree you will (can) probably start placement in about 3 months. On a 3/4/5 year foundation degree/ba-bsc or ma/msc you probably won't start for a year. If you're on a shorter course, you will need to start looking for potential placements asap.
It is with sad hearts that this blog comes to you. At the meeting of the CG/trustees on Saturday, we took the decision to cancel this year's conference. It's not a decision we made lightly.
The decision was made because our numbers for booking this year were much lower than in previous years, and had we gone ahead with the conference with the projected number of people we have, we would incur a massive financial loss. As trustees of a charity, we have a legal responsibility not to be irresponsible with the money that BAPCA holds, and we felt that we could not justify the amount of money that it would have cost for the conference to go ahead.
I’ve always thought of myself as “people person”. Indeed in my application for my counselling course, way back, I wrote: “I am exceptionally interested in people, who they are, and who they might become. I have always worked in jobs that involve a lot of interaction with people of all ages and backgrounds. I have worked as a Care Worker, Teacher, Education Welfare Officer and Child Development Instructor. I hope that I have learnt many things from each of the people that I have come across in my life. I have also learnt never to make assumptions based on pre-conceptions; people nearly always surprise you and often prove you quite wrong.” Yet, nowadays, I find myself shying away from interacting with other counsellors, particularly in big groups (I do wonder what the term is for a big group of counsellors). As an individual in private practice in North Staffordshire, you would think that I would seek out the succour and support of my fellow colleagues and professionals and, yet, I find that I don’t want to.
Why so? This change in my behaviour confuses me; various thoughts wander through my mind and I wonder ‘why so’? To take this morning as an example Onlinevents* put on an event to discuss the new BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions*: Before too long I was resembling my 9 year old, when we’re enforcing school reading book time of an evening. I was sighing, disengaged and grumpy. Once again, I found myself thinking: why does it have to get so damn complicated?
PLEASE NOTE THE CONFERENCE IS CANCELLED.
There will be a new blog post about this shortly.
Our conference details are now up and bookings are being taken! Book now to secure your places! Early bird entries are now being taken and we have bursaries available for those who wish to apply. These are popular, so please ask us asap if you'd like to take one of these up. Please don't be afraid to ask - if you don't ask, we can't give you one.
It has reached our ears that some people are concerned that BAPCA might be folding at the conference and thus it might not be worth coming/signing up to BAPCA. We want to assure you that this is definitely not the case!
We were in need of a new treasurer and a new chair, and we could not legally continue without a treasurer, although we do not legally need a chair. We have been very fortunate to have Lindsay van Dijk volunteer for the treasurer role. She is currently co-opted and hopes to be voted in fully at the conference. This means that the future of BAPCA is secured. In the rare possibility that Lindsay wasn't voted in, she would remain co-opted until/unless someone else was voted in. So. In short, we are not folding!
The university of Roehampton has a PhD opportunity. The information is as below:
Here at the Centre for Research in Social and Psychological Transformation we're delighted to be offering a fully funded PhD to help us develop humanistic/person-centred therapy for unwelcome experiences of presence in grief.
“I don’t want to be this way” - a Person-Centred response. By Karen Pollock
LGB - ……; T - trans/transgender
GSRD Gender, sexual and relationship diversity
UPR -Unconditional Positive Regard
CBT Cognitive Behavoral Therapy
cis het - cis (not trans) and heterosexual
SInce January of this year LGB, and finally T, people have been protected from conversion therapy by members of all of the major organisations which regulate counselling in the UK (1). The harms of conversion therapy have been demonstrated, both through the lived experience of clients, and a number of different pieces of research. A consensus has been reached that trying to change someone's gender or sexual identity is contrary to ethical practice (2).
However, this leaves a question, especially for those who have “person-centred hearts” - how do we reconcile the known harms of conversion therapy, and the prohibition on offering to change a client's gender and/or sexual orientation, with a client who enters into therapy in distress about their gender and/or sexual orientation, and wishes to change it?
We can say with some certainty that a person-centred approach can be exceptionally beneficial for gender, sexuality and relationship diverse clients. Coming from a place of accepting the client's reality creates space for a client to bring what they need to a session. A person-centred approach is rooted in leaving the counsellor’s beliefs at the door, and entering into the client’s world without judgement. This can be especially empowering for GSRD clients, who experience a world laden with judgements about their most intimate thoughts, feelings, and ways of being.
As Carl Rogers himself said: “true empathy is always free of any evaluative or diagnostic quality. This comes across to the recipient with some surprise. "If I am not being judged, perhaps I am not so evil or abnormal as I have thought.”
Words like evil and abnormal have dogged the footsteps of GRSD people, and are often internalised. As Dominic Davies discusses here (3), demonstrating the core conditions can of themselves be life changing for GRSD clients. To a client exploring their gender and/or sexuality, to be met with empathy, lack of judgement and UPR, perhaps for the first time, can be a moment of revelation. Perhaps the beliefs they have internalised are wrong. Perhaps the aversion others show is not universal. From the schoolyard insult of “That's so gay” to transphobic jokes on mainstream TV, a client absorbs messages from birth about how certain ways of being are aberrations, lesser, worthy of mockery. Whilst the idea of rehearsing in the therapy room may seem to belong to CBT, the person-centred therapeutic relationship is often a rehearsal for the world outside too. Picture a client who looks “male” but tells their counsellor that they are a woman. In a split second a myriad of possible reactions, each with huge repercussions are opened up. If the therapist responds to the client with acceptance of their gender, with empathy and unconditional regard, then the path marked “this is possible outside the therapy room” will seem a little more achievable.
What about the client who says, I am trans and I do not want to be, or I am gay, and I do not want to be? What about the client who feels bisexuality is shameful, or that their thoughts about their gender need to be “fixed”?
Part of our role as counsellors is to hold negative emotions, not to deny, nor seek to denigrate, downplay or minimise them. If someone is in a place where such a vital part of their identity as gender and/or sexuality is causing them pain, that must be acknowledged. Perhaps part of the problem here is simple narratives, often put forward to reassure cis het people. There is an idea that, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, members of gender and sexual minorities all unfold their wings and fly. In this emergence the only issue faced is acceptance of oneself, which has become framed as being either in or out of the closet. To be in the closet is seen as incongruent and inauthentic, and to “come out” (presented as a one time event of transcendence) is to be one's authentic self. Indeed Darnell L Moore argues that coming out is in fact a heteronormative construct (4). For some GSRD people coming out is indeed a celebratory moment, but not for all, and, in a recursion of pain, and shame, there can even be guilt at their shame of their identity. As Tangney (5) explores, shame and guilt can be anticipatory, and consequential. A client need not have acted on their desires in order to be feeling shame or guilt about the existence of these desires. Nor do they have to have a clear view of what their authentic self is to have absorbed ideas about what an authentic self is, raising within them feelings of shame, and failure.
Within a person-centered therapeutic relationship, the first step is to create a space where these negative emotions can be displayed, received by the therapist, and not judged. It may feel “right” to say “it's ok to be gay”, or that gender is a spectrum, and - indeed - further along the road some clients may want and need to hear that. However, such affirmations contradict the client in the here and now, and may add to the feelings of guilt and shame. Just as we would not (hopefully) tell a mother who disclosed she did not love her children equally that she must change how she feels, so we should not tell a client unhappy with their gender and/or sexual identity that they should feel differently.
Holding the negative feelings, allowing them to exist, going further, and honouring the trust which leads to their expression, allows space to explore where the negative feelings come from. As Julia Serrano discusses detransition is often a result of transphobia (6). Each client will have their own particular reasons for struggling, but some familiar themes may emerge. Cultural and religious backgrounds which see their identity as sinful, aberrant or outwith the culture cannot be ignored. Nor can the very real existence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in society. In some ways a counsellor can be a permission giver, or denier, to the fears expressed by the client. By openly accepting the negative feelings we say that they have value. It is why it is especially important all therapists, regardless of orientation, be aware of the oppressions a minority client may face. This was reflected in the recent update to the BACP ethical framework (7). Some people face violence, family ostracism, hate speech and rejection by their community. They need to be allowed to express their grief, anger, and uncertainty around this.
For those of us with person-centred hearts it should not be a new step to accept where the client is coming from without interpretation or judgement. As we accept the client’s negative feelings, we must be aware though that we are not colluding with them. We should have examined reflectively how we feel about GRSD people. By collusion, I mean when a client expresses dislike of a part of themselves, it is not our place to agree that being gay, or bi, or lesbian, or trans, or any other identity is worse than belonging to the majority. Acknowledging that society may make it harder, that there may be violent reactions to a client, is not the same as saying society is right. A client may well be right in expressing a belief that life would be easier if they were cis/het, it does not equal cis het being better. In the same way, exploring how a client might accommodate some of their fears, by for example inviting in rather than coming out, should not be about diminishing their identity, but recognising the fears are genuine.
- Stonewall Welcomes Clinical Condemnation of Trans “cures”
- The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Human Rights Campaign
- The six necessary and sufficient conditions applied to working with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients Davies (1998)
- Coming out or Inviting in? Moore (2012)
- Moral Emotions and Moral Behaviour Tangney (2006)
- Detransition, desistance and Disinformation Serano (2016)
- Just who is educating who? Pollock (2016)
You can follow Karen on Twitter: @Counsellingkaz
This is to let you know that there are two rooms now available at the St Rita's Centre for this year's La Jolla Program in Honiton, Devon, 29th April to 7th May.
The St. Rita's Centre is situated in the beautiful vale of Honiton, noted for it's market and lace. Honiton is five miles from the coast and fifteen miles from the historic city of Exeter. The Centre was established in 1960 as a junior seminary but has been refurbished and updated and is now a modern retreat centre with all bedrooms ensuite and a lift to each floor. The food is plentiful and excellent. The atmosphere is relaxed and the friendly and helpful attitude of the staff fits well with the person-centred ethos of the workshop.
The La Jolla Program is a project of the Center for Studies of the Person which is based in San Diego, California.It's internal focus is one of supporting its members in their personal and professional lives. It offers workshops or consultations and sponsors events for the general public or specific groups.The staff at the Centre worked intensively with Carl Rogers, who was personally involved in the development and establishment of the La Jolla Program. Thousands of people from around the world have participated in the Program, which provides an opportunity to learn, experiment, study and experience the person-centred approach.
The Person Centred Approach is built on a basic trust in the person. A trust in the constructive directional flow of the individual toward a more complex and complete development. No matter how things may appear there is always an organismic movement within the individual.This movement may be thwarted, but it's seeds are always present.
The Person-Centred Approach is a systemic, holistic approach that focuses on health rather than illness, empowering rather than curing. It promotes the development of individuals,groups and organisations, through the process of freeing people to be responsible for what they do, rather than encouraging passivity and dependency.
This will be the fourteenth year that the Center has brought the La Jolla Program to the UK. We look forward to welcoming new participants as well as more regular attendees, and hope you will be able to join us.
Further details and an application form are available on our website www.lajollaprogram.org
Kay, Will & John